Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Part 6, Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

Jean Louise confronts Atticus. He defends his membership on the council and argues that greater harm could be done in the process of trying to do right. Jean Louise insists the time has come to do right. Atticus counters that change must come slowly. He considers blacks as "backward" and warns of the dangers of allowing them to have the "privileges" of citizenship without adequate preparation to assume the responsibilities. Atticus considers himself a "Jeffersonian Democrat," believing in states' rights with minimal interference from "big government" or the NAACP. Jean Louise says Maycomb has gotten what it deserved with regard to the NAACP.

Atticus tells Jean Louise that she needs to see things both as they are and as they should be. She feels she has been lied to because she was not shown such things as a child. Jean Louise says that she heard the words of Atticus but didn't really know what was in his mind.

Jean Louise is angry and feels cheated. She declares Atticus to be "no better than Hitler." Atticus says, "I've killed you, Scout. I had to."

Analysis

As alluded to in the flashback of the "falsies" debacle, Atticus is a flawed individual with views shaped by his own limitations as a respected member of white society in the 1950s South. He is not all-knowing, and his views are mediated by his own experiences.

As the hero on her journey, Jean Louise must "die" by confronting her greatest fear. Atticus brings about this "death" by killing the image Jean Louise carried of his perfection. In helping her see his humanity, Atticus gives her the opportunity to find her way to a new life, one in which she serves as her own watchman. She is responsible for her own moral choices, a responsibility that brings with it freedom from constraints such as being bound by the ideas of others or enslaved to tradition.

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